I went to the doctor’s office a few days ago because I felt like I needed an expert opinion. A seasoned medical professional who could tell me what kind of trouble I was in. A stoic voice to give it to me straight.
But he didn’t even have to open his mouth for me to figure out I was screwed.
In front of me sat a man who had likely witnessed all sorts of stomach-churning maladies. We’re talking open sores, severed limbs, and rashes in regions of the body that were never meant to be without clothing. As soon as he saw my face, he looked as if someone had just force-fed him a quart of expired cottage cheese.
“Whoa,” he said. “You definitely have a problem there.”
He looked down at my chart to help stifle his gag reflex.
“I figured as much,” I replied.
In order to allow my doctor to see the full effect of my ailment, I had purposefully avoided wiping my inflamed right eye, which had consequently been secreting a grayish-green ooze for the past twenty minutes. I must have looked like a guy who had just learned to blow his nose through his eyeball. Through the haze, I could make out the outline of his face. He was a dead ringer for George Costanza from Sienfeld.
As he handed me a slip of paper, he unloaded his diagnosis.
“Looks like you have a pretty bad case of pink eye.”
My kids had accompanied me on the appointment. The doctor’s words caught Audrey’s attention and she immediately looked up from the electronic talking book she got for Christmas.
“A pink eye?!” she beamed. “Let me see!”
Pink being her favorite color, she must have thought princesses were flying out of my face. When I showed her my oozing eyeball, she was sorely disappointed.
“That’s red!” she corrected, and quickly went back to her book. The doctor interrupted our father-daughter moment.
“ Here’s a prescription for some eye drops. Use them four times a day for three days.” Though no one else was even in the office at the time, he stood up as if he was late for an appointment.
“Good luck with the eye. Let me know if it doesn’t clear up.”
There were no long goodbyes. No pleasantries. No handshake. The entire appointment lasted two minutes. I left the office feeling like a modern-day leper.
‘Cuz that’s how it is with pink eye.
Sure, left untreated, pink eye can result in blindness. But with today’s available medical treatments, it’s really not a serious thing. Still, the stigma with pink eye is that it is twice as contagious as Disco Fever, and ten times as revolting. Oozing eyes? Disgusting with a capital GUSTING. If you have pink eye, no one wants to touch you. At least that’s what I learned when my wife got home.
“How was the appointment?” she asked.
“Dr. Costanza says I have pink eye.”
“Ewwwww.” she responded, giving me an awkward kiss on the shoulder. “I’m not going to get close to your face then.”
For the past three days, she will only pat me on the butt, my upper back, or the tip of my elbow. She doesn’t have to say it, but I know she is thinking far ahead as she does this, realizing that it is physically impossible for these areas to come into contact with my eye. A recent hug consisted of her holding her arms straight in front of her, elbows locked, and squeezing my shoulders, like we were being watched by Sister Agnes at the Our Lady of Perpetual Motion Catholic School seventh grade dance.
Make room for Jesus, as they say.
“No kiss?” I inquired.
“No way. That stuff might splatter into my eye or something.”
And this coming from a woman who voluntarily worked a foot care clinic for the homeless. She is constantly reminding me to wash my hands, and insists that I use my own towels. My white pillow cases have been replaced by yellow ones, “so we can make sure they don’t contaminate the other ones.” She would probably quarantine me to living under the deck in the back yard if she wasn’t afraid our 14-year-old dog, Bailey would get it.
Spreading like wildfire.
I spoke with my friend Jim tonight. An old college buddy. In the old days we spent a lot of quality time together. In the course of an hour, we might spend 13 seconds talking about something of substance, and the other 59 minutes 47 seconds making fun of each other.
It was a deep friendship.
Tonight, our substantive talk far outweighed the crap. In fact, neither one of us made any comment that would offend the other’s mother, which made me feel warm and sad all at the same time. As we caught up on the particulars of each other’s lives, I failed to mention the pink eye for fear that he would hang up on me. I hear that stuff can ooze through phone lines and such.
The topic of our conversations drifted to this blog. Odds are good that I’m the one who brought it up. You tend to expect that from someone who writes about himself twice a week and publishes it for the whole world to see. Such exploits involve a certain amount of ego.
“So. Why are you writing the blog?” Jim asked.
“What do you mean?”
He clarified his statement.
“What’s it all about? What’s it for?”
I thought for a brief moment, and then regurgitated some bullet points originally provided to me from my friend Charity (an aptly named friend, to be sure) who convinced me I needed one. I added a few of my own.
Well… 1) if you’re going to write a book, it helps to build a following. 2) It’s a good way to assure you keep “practicing” writing, 3) it’s a good way to get feedback on your work, 4) it’s a way of chronicling and journaling about my life so my kids can read it one day,
He interrupted me.
“I’m a little disappointed in your answer.”
I was silent.
“I thought it was going to be about more than building a following. Aren’t you trying to change the world or something?”
Jim is absolutely right. This whole blog experiment started as a way for me to write. A fun diversion. Encouragement to finish a book about a seven-year-old experience that I am just now beginning to understand. At the end of said project, my wife and I will have a complete journal of an incredibly meaningful experience in our lives that still influences the way we live. On top of that, writing about it would remind us of our own vow to live with integrity and serve, because those are things that easily get swept under the rug when you’re yelling at your kids or filling their lunch boxes.
But maybe there is something more here.
There is a large body of research that shows how behaviors are contagious. Nothing earth-shattering here.
Call it the “Pay It Forward” law, if you must. What you’ve learned based on anecdotal evidence in your own life has been proven by honest-to-goodness research. Behaviors are contagious. Do your own experiment and yawn at your next office meeting. See what happens.
But it’s not just the bad things. Cooperation is contagious. So is generosity. Altruism.
There is a disease I’d like to spread.
The good news is, we’re all inextricably linked. This new year, I am realizing that my actions and my words have an impact that extends beyond my body. Each day I have a choice which direction I will go. Will I enrich someone’s life today? Or simply ignore them in indifference? Will I forgive? Or hold a grudge? Will I serve? Or settle for status quo?
So, as I sit and ponder what this is all for, and contemplate writing a mission statement for this here blog, I will start the year off with a simple resolution.
And Dr. Costanza would tell you, I’m off to a good start.